5 Ways to Keep Your Computer Running Fast

“Why is my computer so slow?”  How many times have we asked ourselves that?  It is widely considered an unfortunate fact of life that computers will slow down and eventually die, like an old person, or a battery running out of juice at the end of it’s life.  But I am here with happy news: it doesn’t have to be that way! Keep your computer running fast with the following tips.

Happy News: Computers don’t have to slow down!

5 ways to keep your computer running fast

  1. Reboot your computer

    It’s such a common answer that it has become comical.  Users wonder why helpdesk people always tell them reboot.  Helpdesk people wonder why users never reboot, even though they’re always telling them to.  Here’s the secret: Rebooting is the miracle cure for Windows woes.  As you may have realized by now, Microsoft software is not always the most stable, best written software imaginable.  You turn on programs and turn them off, open and close files, make changes, undo, redo, etc.  All of the normal things that people do leads to A LOT of processing on the back end.  Sometimes, the people who write the software don’t always clean up after themselves like they should.  Sometimes bugs creep in and get worse as time goes on.  But 90% of all speed problems can be fixed by rebooting.*  It’s like giving your computer a fresh start.  Have you ever performed a task that had so many working pieces you lost track of where you were and had to start from scratch just do to anything at all?  Computers feel that way, too, sometimes.  Reboot once a week or more to keep your computer running fast.

  2. Delete Temporary Files

    As programs go about their business, they generate a lot of data that they only need for a few minutes.  They store this data in temporary files they are supposed to delete later… but often don’t.  People can have hundreds or thousands of these files that are taking up space and slowing down the computer.  So, do yourself a favor to keep a clean computer: every few months, delete all of these temp files immediately after you turn your computer on.  These temp folders are typically stored in 3 locations: C:\temp and C:\Windows\Temp are the easy ones.  The third one is different depending on what version of Windows you’re using and username.  The easy to get to it is to click Start (or Start > Run if you prefer) and type in %temp%.  That’s a percent sign, the word “temp” and another percent sign.  This will take you right to the third folder.  Unless you are specifically saving things here (and don’t do that), deleting everything is generally safe.

  3. Delete Internet Cache

    Your web browser knows 3 things about speed: 1) Most webpages don’t change very often; 2) You go to the same pages over and over; 3) Retrieving data from your own computer is far faster than downloading it over the internet.  Combine all of these things, and you get “caching.”  The webpages you browse the most probably don’t change much and you can see them quicker if they are saved on your computer.  So your browser downloads the websites you go to and stores them on your computer.  This is called “cache,” or “browsing history,” or “temporary internet files.”  But your computer is a glutton, and doesn’t know when to stop.  So it downloads EVERYTHING you see, not just the important stuff.  And then it has to scan everything it has downloaded before getting it from the internet.  If you don’t clear your internet cache occasionally, web browsing will be slower and slower.  All browsers have a way of clearing this cache in their settings.  Do this once a week for a clean computer.

  4. Disable Startup Items

    Most computers that come from manufacturers like Dell and HP have dozens of programs that run behind your back when you turn the computer on.  Most people never use any of these programs, so they are needlessly taking up your computer’s resources.  And the more software you install, the more things get scheduled to run when you turn your computer on.  Remember, you want to keep your computer running fast! Disabling unnecessary startup items can boost your computer’s speed a great deal.  There are many tools out there that can help you do this.  But be careful with this tip, because sometimes you do want things running on startup.  I have generally found it safe to download Autoruns from Microsoft’s website and uncheck everything in the “Logon” tab.  But this is best done with a professional, or someone who knows what all of the startup items really do.

  5. Get a Good Antivirus Program

    The surest way to make your computer slow down is to get a virus or malware.  Everyone knows to have an antivirus program on their computer, but there’s a rub.  All AV programs can look through your computer and find viruses that are already on there.  The tricky part is catching the viruses before they infect you.  Most programs do this by hooking deeply into the operating system, watching everything that happens on the computer, and then approving/disapproving it.  This can really slow down a computer, and some antivirus programs slow your computer down much more than others.  In my experience Norton’s products cause far more problems than they solve, slowing down computers in particular.  So absolutely get a good antivirus product, as well as a good anti-malware product, but look at reviews or ask your IT company which ones they recommend for minimizing user interference.

That’s it.  if you do these 5 things regularly, you’ll keep your computer running fast forever and you will be more productive. No more asking yourself, “why is my computer so slow?”

One last thing: notice I didn’t say, “Defrag your hard drive and delete your cookies.”  I don’t know where this myth came from, but it’s thoroughly unhelpful.  Your computer will have 1000 times as much data saved in internet cache than in cookies.*  And defragmenting your hard drive could be helpful, but it’s more of a last resort for speeding up your PC.  And it’s done automatically these days.  Stick to these 5 and your computing life will be far happier.

* I completely made up these statistics, so don’t quote me on them.  But they paint the right picture, so believe them.